Preview: The route and the favorites of the Gent-Wevelgem Women 2022

0

Now that we are in the real Spring Classics season, the races follow one another, with Bruges-De Panne on Thursday and Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday. After Gent-Wevelgem, there is only one week left to wait for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. With Flanders so close and Paris-Roubaix soon after, it’s the time of year when the heavy hitters really come out to play. So far, it’s really been about creating a form for those massive runs that can change the course of someone’s career.

Like so many other Belgian one-day events, Ghent-Wevelgem is a game for everyone. Well no anybody, but it was won after a breakaway and a reduced bunch sprint. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak even won it solo by nearly two minutes in 2016, so it could go a number of ways.

More often than not, the day has been reserved for sprinters who can ride through climbs and crosswinds unaffected. Past winners from Gent-Wevelgem include Lotta Henttala in 2017, Marta Bastianelli in 2018, Kirsten Wild in 2019, Jolien D’Hoore in 2020 and the most recent winner, Marianne Vos, in 2021.

Last year, Vos ran the perfect race to win from a reduced bunch sprint, even after Trek-Segafredo tried to split the race in crosswinds. This year the weather might not make a difference, with no rain and very little wind expected. It’s still Belgium, so never say never.

The lesson

The race will start in Ypres and cover some of the iconic Belgian climbs before finishing in Wevelgem. This year’s edition is longer than previous editions at 159 km. Last year it was about 141 km, the year before 137 km.

All the climbs have reached two-thirds of the way, but preparing for back-to-back climbs won’t be easy. The race begins by heading northwest towards the coast before returning inland. If the wind decides to make the day a little more interesting, these two sections could be full of crosswinds.

The series of climbs follow one another between 80 km and 125 km, starting with the Scherpenberg and ending with the famous Kemmelberg. They are part of a circuit just southwest of the start that loops so the peloton tackles the Scherpenberg and Baneberg climbs twice and tackles the Kemmelberg from two different sides.

Because the climbs are so close together they could hurt the race a bit – however once the climb is complete there are still over 30km to go, plenty of time for everything to recover in place. Last year a few key riders, including Elisa Longo Borghini, Kasia Niewiadoma and Marianne Vos, got away from the peloton on the climbs but everything was able to pull itself together as Wevelgem approached.

The climbs in question are all quite short – none more than a kilometer – but they have gradients of up to 20%. the Scherpenberg is 400m and steep at the top with a max gradient of 11%, the Baneberg is a little shorter at 300 meters but varies from 9% to 20%. the Monteberg is the longest at 1 km then the first ascent of the Kemmelberg (Belvedere) is 600 meters which caps at 20%. The final Kemmelberg (Ossuary) the climb is 700 meters and 9.6%, with the steepest section towards the end.

Once the climb is over, it’s a straight shot to Wevelgem. The only thing that could break the race at this point is crosswinds.

Favorites

reigning champion Marianne Vos and her teammate Coryn Labecki will enter the race as two of the big favourites. Vos missed the Trofeo Alfredo Binda due to illness, so she only has one day of racing (on the road) under her belt this season, but with someone as experienced as the Dutchman, the days racing make very little difference. She knows how to win a bike race, she knows how to win this bike race, and she will be a factor.

Labecki finished sixth in the peloton sprint at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, somewhat surprisingly, but she didn’t have a full squad to help her in the final either. If it’s a reduced bunch sprint and Vos doesn’t feel it, Labecki is the best backup plan on the starting roster.

SD Worx hasn’t been on top form in the last three WorldTour races, which is to say he hasn’t won them. The team have been the best of the best for years, so it’s good to keep them at a higher level. After poor performances at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne, they will throw everything at Gent-Wevelgem. Their star rider Lotte Kopecky maybe not able to fight Balsamo and Wiebes in a sprint, but she’s still a threat. She will have a past winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak also supporting her.

Worth watching Lonneke Uneken for a quick finish. The Dutch youngster was leader of the Exrerioo Classic Brugge-De Panne, and although it didn’t work in her favor, she has an incredibly fast kick.

Elisa Balsamo is on one right now, having won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne. Trek-Segafredo wasted no time putting all their eggs in the world champion’s basket and it worked for them on several occasions this year. Balsamo also has one of the strongest rosters in the race. Included between Ellen van Dijk, Elisa Longo Borghini, Chloe Hosking and Audrey Cordon-Ragot, the American team has options and they have the strength to keep the race together for a sprint. Based on how they’ve been riding in Italy recently and how Balsamo has been sprinting, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do it all for her again.

Kasia Niewiadoma will finally return to racing after a bout with COVID-19. The Polish rider was one of those who really animated last year’s race on the hills, and she will no doubt do so again this year. She faces stiff competition that won’t want a move to happen, but she’s not one to back down from a fight. Backup for Canyon-SRAM will be Paladin Soraya after finishing second in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda last weekend. The Italian is still finding her bearings in her new team but the form is there.

After an excellent start to the season in its home races in Australia, Grace Brown hasn’t quite made an impression on European soil yet. She jumped into breakaways and was up there at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on opening weekend. She and her partner Marta Cavalli will have to side with Niewiadoma if they want to win; Brown, in particular, could get away with a solo move.

Like Trek-Segafredo, Movistar will go all out for its best driver Emma Norsgaard. The Danish rider has been consistent all season, never finishing outside the top six, with a win at Samyn in early March. For Norsgaard, the harder the race the better, so her teammates could try a few attacks and try to shake things up. Norsgaard is really good at getting into the right spot for a final, so she doesn’t necessarily need a full squad to help her into position.

The talented Australian sprinter Ruby Roseman-Gannon missed Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne but will be in line for Team BikeExchange-Jayco in Gent-Wevelgem, and while not a first choice to win, she deserves a mention here. She’s had a pretty good showing so far in Europe and she’ll be racing in Belgium with her Australian teammate Alexandra Manly, who proved invaluable to Roseman-Gannon in their home races earlier in the season.

Marta Bastienelli deserves a shout out, given that she has already won three times this year and finished third in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne. The UAE Team ADQ runner has also been in tons of different moves and selections at all races and always seems to be in the best place to try to win.

Last but not least, there is Lorena Wiebes. The Dutchwoman looked pretty unbeatable in a bunch sprint until Thursday and it turns out she ran with a broken spoke, which is just wild. Similar to Trek-Segafredo and Movistar, his DSM teammates will work for the race to favor their sprinter. Just in case there’s moves coming up the road they got Floortje Mackaij. Balsamo edging out Wiebes at the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne was an interesting development and a lot of people probably want to see the two face off again on Sunday.

Star Rating CyclingTips

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Vos, Wiebes, Norsgaard, Balsamo
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Kopecky, Bastianelli
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Labecki, Brown, Niewiadoma
⭐️⭐️: Roseman-Gannon, Van den Broek-Blaak
⭐️: Van Dijk, Longo Borghini

How to watch

Tune into GCN+ at 4:15 a.m. CET to watch the women’s race at Flanders Fields. Coverage is available in all GCN+ territories except Australia and New Zealand. For the fans below, you can watch on FloBikes with the lovely Gracie Elvin for company. FloBikes is also available in the United States and Canada.

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.